Tuesday, December 27, 2011

hAPPy nEw yEAr! It is a SN-app!

One thing about working with  young adults is that you run the risk of alienating them at the same time you are trying to share good ideas and ways for them to improve their learning and independence.As a special education teacher in a rural high school in Maine, I work at unlocking the doors to the future by using online digital tools with my students.

Teaching our students to use online tools under our direction, soon allows them more independence and the ability to use their skills no matter where they are. Our students are beginning their large research projects when we return to school and these  apps will help our students keep things organized and at their finger tips.

Here are my top apps.  

Easy-Bib app is an app for the computer where a  student is able to copy a URL, clip the text from the URL and get help with a MLA bibliography. Now with the mobile app Easy Bib, http://easybib.com  the student has the ability to take a photo of the ISBN number and all the MLA information about the book is logged into the mobile device. How sweet is that?

Evernote app provides a way for our students to collect information for a research project into one place in the cloud. No matter if they use their mobile device, including smart phones or ipad/androids, or desktop computers our students are able to save everything to one space and access that information when needed. Check out evernote peek as a way to make your own flash cards or quizzes! http://www.evernote.com

Animoto app- Have you ever said to someone , “Oh, you should have seen the fun we had!,” Now you can make good on that statement by using the animoto app on your smart phone or mobile device. Create an animoto http://animoto.com  account and take about 16 photos, then open the animoto app, gather the pictures, choose some music and create a mini video of your event. Again, there is a feature for sharing with social media like Twitter and Facebook. Our students use this as a way to share a limited number of images, with short captions when they are working on projects in school. Whenever we can use an online tool to capture the content from a course, we take advantage of the “cool factor” and the “medium is the message” theory promoted by Marshall McLuhan .  Our students, especially the ones for whom writing is something to be feared and avoided at all costs can tell a very succinct and poignant story using images. After all, look at how much money is spent on 15 seconds during Super Bowl Sunday.

VoiceThread app-Is a great online tool for collaborating and telling a story at the same time. The features on VoiceThread http://voicethread.com have grown exponentially from use on computers to now on the iPad and other mobile devices,  including text messages, video messages, audio messages and even a way to phone in a message with your phone.

Remember to share a little fun and humor with your students. I am sharing this Alpine Replay, http://www.alpinereplay.com where the app, logs and registers the snowboaders’ and skiers’  actions on the slopes. Not only is the app fun to use, but it also teaches at the same time. Skiers and snowboarders will learn about, calories burned and energy used, speed, slope and the app even allows one to see where the ski area is on the earth. An added feature is that the social aspect of the app allows you to challenge  your friends to any one of the features that the app tracks, like most days on the slope, most kilometers traveled, most vertical, most calories etc. So far I have two medals for being on the hill before 9 AM. Probably the only one I will continue to consistently earn.

hAPPy nEw yEAr! It is a SN-app!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

LED Tree Kennebunk, Maine coakes
During the season of darkness, in the northern hemisphere, we rely on daily brightness “of sorts” to lighten up our days.

Here are some “gifts” for you and your students to brighten your days.

That’s all folks, stay busy, yet relax and keep your days bright, or brighten someone else’s day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What do you need most? TIME

What do you need-most?

Many of us  say,  “If I only had more time I could .......” you can finish the statement .

What would you change about how you get your professional development?
Do you need to be in a group in order to best learn? Do you need a sandbox in order to play around with the new tools?  How about feedback from your students, or their parents? Do you need to take a day off from school or work to attend a workshop?

Each time I think about learning a new tool or new professional learning,  I have a new strategy. Sometimes I call a friend and we learn about a tool together. Other times I search Twitter and find people I follow and see what they are recommending.  Lately,  I've  been using Diigo for my professional development. Diigo is a tool for filing  bookmarks, articles, collecting research, highlighting information and saving all of this in the Cloud.  However, there are so many of my good friends using Diigo and saving and sharing information, that I am using Diigo as my professional development.

Each morning I read through my email, then I make a 10 min. window to check out my Diigo recommendations. I have not had a day where I was disappointed. Each day I learn about some new app for my ipad or I learn about a new website that I can share with my students.
For me, Diigo is the best professional development for my time investment.
I choose Diigo for my PD because:
*I have incremental learning in 10 minute blasts of time.
*I can always share one thing I learned from Diigo with my students or staff.
*I am gaining from the wisdom of others.
*I can share back to Diigo when I find items of interest.
Best of all, Diigo is FREE. Check out their informational movies, then make Diigo your PD.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Think of One Thing that you Googled in the Past Three Months or the Past Three Days?

Can you think of one thing that you googled in the past three months or the past three days?  As I sat with a friend at the Harbor we were talking and  looking at low tide and  discussing what happens to the sand during the tidal pull. She said,  “that can be explained by fractal geometry -those little ripples, as she pointed  to the sculptured sand. The tides pull the water, the ripples in the sand are evidence of the water ripples which are evidence of fractal geometry.”   I thought about that for a bit. I  really didn’t know what fractal geometry was, but I did know it sounded like the Fibonacci in nature  where everything is systematic using the 1,3,5,8,13,21,.....  Now when I look at sand ripples I will think of fractals. “Approximate fractals are easily found in nature. These objects display self-similar structure over an extended, but finite, scale range. Examples include clouds, river networks, fault lines, mountain ranges, craters,[8] snow flakes,[9] crystals,[10] lightning, cauliflower or broccoli, and systems of blood vessels and pulmonary vessels, and ocean waves.[11] DNA and heartbeat[12] can be analyzed as fractals. Even coastlines may be loosely considered fractal in nature.” Wikipedia 

This is an example where STEM really needs to be part of education for all of us.

There are some conversations that naturally lend themselves to what we call reciprocal conversations where I say one thing, you make a comment, it reminds me of something which I say,  and you make a comment about that and then it goes back and forth. The reciprocal manner is where  people have a conversation that you can predict the conversation is full of ebb and flow.  However, with my friend at the Harbor looking at low tide there was absolutely no way I could predict where the conversation was going to end up, nor could I predict  how those subjects were going to be woven into those conversations.  That's really amazing to me because we’re in an exciting time and we're having  conversations where making connections that normally wouldn't have been made BI, before internet.

So, I'll ask again,  when was the last time you looked up something totally unfamiliar to you?  When was the last time you had a conversation with someone that was not scripted? But  rather, it was really reciprocal  with give-and-take and you were sharing in the teaching and learning.  How can we make this happen more often?Let’s  think about that! Let’s think about ways to provide an avenue for that to happen in our classes!  Let your students be  teachers and let your teachers be the learners!

 coakes photo

Tags: google , search

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

iPads Transforming the Field Notebook

Once you are a teacher, you are always thinking of ways to use new technology with purpose. Purpose  to make your job easier, purpose to help students learn new skills, or purpose to make changes in the process of being an effective 21st Century Learner.

Last week while talking to our youngest son,( a Surveying Engineer working on surveying a gas line on the east coast), he was telling me how he purchased an ipad for his personal use, then  when he began “playing around” with it, something changed and finally, he was excited that this was going to end up being a tool he could use at work.

For a week, each morning he would call with an idea or process that he had tried out on his iPad and how  it made his job easier. He explained that he could make his surveying plans into a PDF, mark them up and share with others, through their email, laptops and smartphones. Then the fact that his iPad had a camera, where he could document the joints in the pipes with an image and geotag it with longitude and latitude, added even more value to his productivity. This may not sound exciting to us in the classroom, but when you are out in the field and every second counts in a project, every joint, every cross reference, using the iPad is making his life easier and more accurate.

When I asked him how he knew how to use this softeware/app, he said, “ I just kept reading about the things the software could  do, then I made it work out for this job.” For most of us the HELP button on each software program, just sits at the top of the screen and when we are stuck, we may check it out. For Dan, the Help button has been a mentor, instructor and guide as he navigates his way through his software to do his job. The Manual for this app is an interactive pdf doc.  Dan explained that the PDF manual was a great interactive tool and he used it like an on demand interactive tutorial.

When one of his  co-workers asked him how he knew how to run this program and how he figured it out, Dan said, “My Mom was all about technology, if you knew her you would know how  I followed this problem solving technique.“  So, teachers, be all about technology, encourage all your students, use the HELP button, play and let your students play with the web, play with software, play with the HELP menu, learn it, take charge of it and own it.


This is the transformative process implementation that many educators have been waiting for. It is starting to carry over with our students into the business world. Keep pushing in your classroom, this 21st Century Skill is necessary for our next generation. As Dan says, “ Mom, this iPad is transformative!” I asked him where he heard about transformative  use and he wasn’t able to tell me. But, regardless of that, he certainly has the understanding, the process and he sees how his engagement is paying off in his job. He and fellow engineer, Brandon, are beginning to convince those they are working with that the iPad should be their field notebook and he has great reasons.

  • One set of gas line plans costs about 300.00.
  • When changes are made then the contractor needs to reprint the plans and distribute them to all the clients to ensure accuracy. More printing costs at about 300.00 for each set, again.
  • iPad instant pictures with geotag information.
  • One ipad about 600.00, and the ability to share documents electronically with others, priceless!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If a leaf changes color and no one sees it, has it really happened?

cross posted at techlearning.com

This is the third post in a series of posts about a summer science camp for teachers that I attended.This summer when I spent the week with the TOTE, Teachers of the Estuary   I learned so much that I have spent my summer blogging and sharing the information. I think I saved the best for last, Picture Posts! Throughout the Wells Reserve  there were 3 posts that are part of the Picture Post Project. This project is something very simple; it complements Phenology, observing nature’s calendar, utilizes simple technology, it is something any class can participate in from preschool to Senior College students. The posts are set up as a stand alone or an existing post surrounding a structure, body of water, forest, garden or school. This project is open to anyone and has the capability of looking at, photographing, and documenting change over time. The change can be a daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal or a yearly change.

Picture Post is a part of the Digital Earth Watch (DEW) network. DEW supports environmental monitoring by citizens, students and community organizations through digital photography and satellite imagery.
You can...
  • contribute photographs to any Picture Post
  • add your own Picture Post
  • measure environmental change in your neighborhood, and
  • contribute to science networks.

Educators can learn a lot about Digital Earth Watch projects. http://picturepost.unh.edu/DEW_education.jsp There are so many worthwhile projects I am sure you would find something to interest all the students in your classes.  There are explicit instructions detailing how you can get started and build a picture post. http://picturepost.unh.edu/build.jsp

The Picture Post Project has made this accessible to all with step by step directions, and movies at their site. The recycled plastic post topper with gradients cut out around the 360 degrees setting is a fool proof addition to the project. I was able to snap my 8 photos, then an additional shot of the sky, upload and view my photos all in a matter of 20 minutes from field to classroom. I enjoyed comparing my photos of a summer day  with February photos of someone else.  You will have to check out the site and compare photos from a specific site as there isn’t a way for you to see my comparison.

There is so much one could do in the classroom by participating in this project;  math, geography, poetry, environmental science, but most of all, your students will become the life long learners we all hope for. Check out Picture Post, and let me know if you have heard of it before. If not, please help to spread the word. My students will be building a picture post at Wells Harbor and possibly in our woods on school grounds. We want to have as many students and community members involved  as possible. Now, when leaves change colors we will all be able to see that it has happened!

For more information you can contact at this © Copyright 2011, The University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824  |   About  |   ADA Disclaimer   |   Terms of Service   |   Contact   |  Picture Post is supported by NASA

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Phenology Affects Us All!

cross-posted at TechLearning.com

This is the second post in a series of posts about a summer science camp for teachers that I attended. I was really smitten by this next part of the summer science workshop! Phenology! What is phenology?Phenology refers to recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, or phenophases, such as leafing and flowering, maturation of agricultural plants, emergence of insects, and migration of birds. However, I like this simpler description of phenology, it is easily understood as ‘nature’s calendars’. It’s awesome how this hands-on important project-based science work can be done by all ages, all grades, all abilities! I like that we can share this work with our students and they can become Citizen Scientists and lifelong learners-beginning now! No matter where you are in the United States you and your students can join this project. You can learn more about the projects and register here at this link. 

Citizen scientists are individual volunteers (students) or networks of volunteers, many of whom may have no specific scientific training,who perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement, or computation.”

coakes photo
Signs of the Seasons is in international project,, and has many educational resources available for classroom use including maps, graphs, writing prompts and data gathering and reporting. One of the most famous projects for us in New England is Journey North about the flights and migration of the Monarch Butterfly. Here is the mission of Journey North, Journey North engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, gray whales, bald eagles— and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events. Find migration maps, pictures, standards-based lesson plans, activities and information to help students make local observations and fit them into a global context. Widely considered a best-practices model for education, Journey North is the nation's premiere "citizen science" project for children. The general public is welcome to participate.”  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

What does all this have to do with technology? Our students are budding scientists! They have digital cameras at their disposal and a way to publish, write about and share their observations. Signs of the Seasons, Journey North, the USA National Phenology Network and an immediate project, get ready for Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere are all viable networks for gathering all this student data.

You and your students can track monarchs, whooping cranes, hummingbirds, seasonal changes and even plant tulips for spring observations. This is all part of  global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change.

You may even have a state run Signs of the Season project office in your area. In Maine, our project is connected to the University of Maine. So, don’t be the last one left indoors as you and your students head back to school, head outdoors and observe!

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a Teachers on The Estuary workshop in Wells, ME at the Wells Estuarine Reserve.   Read further if you are looking for science examples to use in your instruction in your classes. This science information is not just about understanding science, but about being a life long learner and steward of our planet.
TechLearning post 1 Working outside my Comfort Zone!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Playing with Media - a fabulous read, listen and view!

  Playing with Media - a fabulous read, listen and view! by Wes Fryer, author

Like many of you I saw the Tweet where Wes mentioned that his ebook was ready. It was late and I was all ready to turn in for the night, but I wanted to get this ebook right away, so I clicked to Amazon, downloaded and began reading. I am so glad I started reading this right away, as I am getting ready for back to school, and I do my best planning and thinking at night.

With the cover image, by his youngest child Rachel, I was hooked or you could say engaged! Then the purpose "to inspire and empower",  had me taking notes and planning where in my classroom I would introduce some of the digital storytelling tools for my students to add to their digital toolkits.

To begin with Wes has a chapter dedicated to Tips for Reading and a glossary that my 82 year old mother could understand. Although this could be mundane, ever the storyteller, Wes, gets the information across in an entertaining way.

I like how Wes has examples to illustrate his ideas, which leads the reader, inter-actor, teammate, actor, playmate, viewer, listener,  and creator  to engage with this ebook. Wes gives all of us permission to play in the sandbox. He gives us strategies to try as we move along in the book. He gives us enough history so we are grounded and understand that " we learn deeper when we actively DO rather than passively watch" , ( Wes Fryer, Playing with Media).

His comments about testing, Common Standards, NETS, and 21st Century Skills are woven into the storytelling journey with compelling statements about how we need to incorporate digital media in Transformational ways. Once you begin reading or listening or interacting with this book and begin creating, you will be transformational and part of this story!

Wes thanks for this wonderful inspirational ebook, I will begin  by creating the Flickr group 180schooldays , a public book where you and your classrooms can begin the year long journey of a photo or image  a day. Join the Flickr group 180schooldays and tag your images with #180schooldays.  The power of the crowd going deep into new and transformational interactive learning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trying out thinglink a way to tag your images!

An image from my weeklong Summer Science Camp, TOTE2011, Teachers on the Estuary, Wells, ME
Using Thinglink, I was able to tag the photo and add 3 links to important resources!
It takes about 5 minutes to login with Facebook, then add the widget to your own blog, stay logged into Thinglink and you are in business.

What is not to like???

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking and Working Outside my Comfort Zone

Cross posted at TechLearning.com
A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a Teachers on The Estuary workshop in Wells, ME at the Wells Estuarine Reserve.  Read further if you are looking for science examples to use in your instruction in your classes. This science information is not just about understanding science, but about being a life long learner and steward of our planet.

I am lucky in my position at Wells High School, I get to work in special education classes and co-teach science with highly qualified science teachers and I assist as the highly qualified special educator. It is a program that works well as an inclusion model in our continuum of classes offered for all students. This summer, when I had the chance I immersed myself, along with my co-teacher at the Teachers on the Estuary week long workshop, the TOTE program.

I learned a lot about our local marine resources and how NOAA does an incredible amount of really good scientific work in areas other than weather! How many of you think that NOAA   is only about weather;  hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and dust storms? Check out their logo for more topic areas that NOAA promotes.


NOAA has a whole section of their web dedicated to Education and Teacher Resources, The topic, estuaries, where the river meets the sea, and fresh and salt water mix, has some online classes you can take advantage of   and specifically the Estuary Workshop 101  for high school students. ( NERR is working on a middle school and elementary option too.) Who knew NOAA was so involved in so many areas?

NOAA has partnered with other organizations  notably METEd and Comet, whose mission is: “MetEd is operated by The COMET® Program, a talented team of scientists, instructional designers, and developers. We've been producing quality educational materials since 1989.”
There are free online course modules for educators and learners from middle school to adults who are life long learners. These courses would be awesome for the classroom to infuse scientific work into your instruction. I was fascinated by the Arctic Ecosystems which in fact explains not only the Arctic Ecosystem but builds with the foundations of photosynthesis, carbon cycle,the greenhouse effect and the life and food cycle of the arctic region. This particular module really resonated with me as one of our guest scientists, Cameron Waite, UNH professor and researcher  spoke to us about Climate Changes, and one way to help make people aware of these changes is to include in the conversation what role the changes play in Systems!   “Unlike science of a century ago, Earth System Science is focused on the interactions between several disciplines that determine the state and evolution of our planet. The impact of that on human behavior - as well as the impact of human behavior on the planet - is an additional focus of Earth system science.”
( Atmosphere, Biosphere, Geosphere, Hydrosphere, and Human Interaction Systems) http://essedesignguide.org/ 
As a culminating part of my summer TOTE workshop, I will be designing, with my students, a stewardship project about our local watershed and how we can protect and promote it to the public.
For a quick look at how a stewardship project about watersheds can be implemented in your classroom, here is a TOTE stewardship project from last year.   Pam and I are planning our stewardship projects over the summer. I’ll report out here throughout the summer and  school year.


National Estuary Day http://www.estuaries.gov/GetInvolved/Default.aspx?ID=153
September 24, 2011.
Stewardship Project http://www.estuaries.gov/News/Default.aspx?id=527 
Earth System Science  http://essedesignguide.org/ 
NOAA Teacher Resources http://www.education.noaa.gov/ 
Teachers of the Estuary http://www.estuaries.gov/GetInvolved/Default.aspx?id=401